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News / Northwest

Boaters rescue pilot after small plane crash off downtown Seattle waterfront

By Daisy Zavala Magaña, The Seattle Times
Published: May 19, 2023, 7:55am

SEATTLE — A small plane crashed into Puget Sound on Thursday evening near the downtown Seattle waterfront, sinking only a few hundred feet from a pier, officials said.

The plane crashed into the Sound near the waterfront in the 2800 block of Alaskan Way, according to the Seattle Fire Department. The 42-year-old pilot was able to exit the plane before being rescued by a group of boaters and brought to shore.

He suffered minor injuries and was being taken to a hospital for further evaluation, fire officials said. No passengers were aboard the plane.

Thomas Hawthorne said he and three others were boating on the Sound when they saw the aircraft flying low over the water. A few minutes later, the plane crashed into the water about a half mile away.

“We were just hanging out out in the boat, enjoying the views of Seattle, and all of a sudden we see a plane coming in flying really low … then [it] crashed,” said Hawthorne’s friend, David Commarford.

The group debated what to do and ultimately headed to the crash site, where they found the pilot struggling to swim and the plane mostly underwater.

One of the boaters, Elaina Neal, said she threw a rope to the pilot, who was able to grasp it on her second toss. The boaters then pulled the pilot to the side of their boat, and Hawthorne and Commarford dragged him from the water.

“David grabbed his arm, and then we kind of all got over to the side of the boat and pulled him into the boat,” Hawthorne said.

The pilot had trouble breathing and had blood around his jaw and mouth, Commarford said. He told the group he had lost control of the plane, according to Hawthorne.

With the pilot onboard, the group headed to the pier, where paramedics took over.

Brent Breslin, who was operating the boat, said he and his friends sprung quickly into rescue mode when they saw the plane go down.